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Facebook 'Home' a new way to use your Android phone.

Summary: California: People have been waiting for the Facebook phone for years. Not real people, ...

California: People have been waiting for the Facebook phone for years. Not real people, mind you, just technology reporters. Since at least 2009, we've seen rumours, leaks, and scoops about Facebook's on-again, off-again efforts to build a device meant to rival Apple and Google's smartphones. No one ever quite articulated why this would be a good idea either for Facebook or for its hordes of users. If Facebook built its own phone, the company could expect to sell, at most, a few million of them a year -- not that many, considering that its social network already claims a billion members. Also, who wants a Facebook phone? What would that even mean? Anybody who wants Facebook on his phone can already get it -- the company's apps and mobile site are hugely popular, and buttons to share stuff on Facebook are built into most mobile phones, including the iPhone. Why should Facebook go to the trouble of building its own phones when phone makers have already done that hard work for them? That appears to be the thinking behind Facebook Home, the big thing Facebook unveiled this week. I choose that term -- 'thing' -- very carefully. Facebook Home isn't a phone, it isn't an operating system, and it isn't an app. Instead, it's a free-to-download lock- and home-screen replacement for Android phones. If most people's phones are already Facebook phones, Facebook Home makes them Facebookier, bringing the social-network's content (including, at some point, ads), to your phone's foremost screen. By riding in on Google's Android app store, Facebook Home is a brilliant bit of jujitsu -- it uses Android's 'openness', Google's chief selling point for its phone OS, to turn Google phones into Facebook phones. But if Facebook's strategy works -- that is, if millions of people install it and Facebook-ified home screens become a selling point for Android -- the move might be even worse news for Apple. Alerts from apps To understand Facebook Home, go to your smartphone and turn it on. You'll see a screen that displays a clock, some alerts from your apps, and an unlock slider. That's known as the 'lock screen'. Then, when you unlock your phone, you're presented with the 'home screen' -- the interface that shows off all your apps. If you install Facebook Home, both those screens will immediately be replaced by Facebook's new interface. After that, every time you turn on your phone you'll see a feed of photos and updates from your friends. You can flip through the pictures, Like them, and even comment on things without ever unlocking your device. To get to your apps, you've got to tap a little bubble to bring up a new menu. Facebook Home inserts itself between you and every non-Facebook thing you might want to do with your phone. The effect is one of parasitic invasion: In the past, your Android phone did everything, including Facebook. Now it's a Facebook machine first. After a few taps, you might get it to do other things, too. Mark Zuckerberg put an optimistic spin on the shift during Thursday's Facebook press event. Until now, he argued, interfaces for computers and phones have always been built around applications. Any time you want to do something on your machine, you click or tap an app first. But Zuckerberg thinks that's an outdated way of navigating through computers, especially devices like phones, which are designed for communication. "What if we flipped that around and made it so that our phones are designed around people first, and then you could also interact with apps when you wanted to?" Zuckerberg asked.

Muscat Press and Publishing House SAOC 2013

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Publication:Times of Oman (Muscat, Oman)
Date:Apr 7, 2013
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